Perspective Open Access
Like 0


We established a modular, rapidly deployable laboratory system that provides diagnostic support in resource-limited, remote areas. Developed as a quick response asset to unusual outbreaks of infectious diseases worldwide, several of these laboratories have been used as part of the World Health Organization response to the Ebola virus outbreaks by teams of the ‘European Mobile Lab’ project in West Africa since March 2014. Within three days from deployment, the first European mobile laboratory became operational at the Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in Guéckédou, southern Guinea. Deployment in close proximity to the ETU decreased the turnaround time to an average of 4 h instead of several days in many cases. Between March 2014 and May 2015, more than 5,800 samples were tested in this field laboratory. Further EMLab units were deployed to Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone in the following months of the Ebola outbreak. The technical concept of the EMLab units served as a blueprint for other mobile Ebola laboratories which have been set up in Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and other countries in West Africa. Here, we describe design, capabilities and utility of this deployable laboratory system for use in response to disease outbreaks, epidemiological surveillance and patient management.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...



  1. World Health Organization (WHO). Ebola situation report - 28 October 2015. Geneva: WHO; 2015. Available from: http://apps.who.int/ebola/current-situation/ebola-situation-report-28-october-2015
  2. Baize S, Pannetier D, Oestereich L, Rieger T, Koivogui L, Magassouba N, et al. Emergence of Zaire Ebola virus disease in Guinea. N Engl J Med. 2014;371(15):1418-25.  https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa1404505  PMID: 24738640 
  3. Schieffelin JS, Shaffer JG, Goba A, Gbakie M, Gire SK, Colubri A, et al. Clinical illness and outcomes in patients with Ebola in Sierra Leone. N Engl J Med. 2014;371(22):2092-100.  https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa1411680  PMID: 25353969 
  4. Boisen ML, Schieffelin JS, Goba A, Oottamasathien D, Jones AB, Shaffer JG, et al. Multiple circulating infections can mimic the early stages of viral hemorrhagic fevers and possible human exposure to filoviruses in Sierra Leone prior to the 2014 outbreak. Viral Immunol. 2015;28(1):19-31. PMID: 25531344 
  5. Grolla A, Jones S, Kobinger G, Sprecher A, Girard G, Yao M, et al. Flexibility of mobile laboratory unit in support of patient management during the 2007 Ebola-Zaire outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Zoonoses Public Health. 2012;59(Suppl 2):151-7.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1863-2378.2012.01477.x  PMID: 22958259 
  6. Grolla A, Jones SM, Fernando L, Strong JE, Ströher U, Möller P, et al. The use of a mobile laboratory unit in support of patient management and epidemiological surveillance during the 2005 Marburg Outbreak in Angola. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2011;5(5):e1183.  https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0001183  PMID: 21629730 
  7. Inglis TJ. The lab without walls: a deployable approach to tropical infectious diseases. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2013;88(4):614-8.  https://doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.12-0704  PMID: 23553225 
  8. Inglis TJ, Merritt A, Montgomery J, Jayasinghe I, Thevanesam V, McInnes R. Deployable laboratory response to emergence of melioidosis in central Sri Lanka. J Clin Microbiol. 2008;46(10):3479-81.  https://doi.org/10.1128/JCM.01254-08  PMID: 18716231 
  9. Towner JS, Khristova ML, Sealy TK, Vincent MJ, Erickson BR, Bawiec DA, et al. Marburgvirus genomics and association with a large hemorrhagic fever outbreak in Angola. J Virol. 2006;80(13):6497-516.  https://doi.org/10.1128/JVI.00069-06  PMID: 16775337 
  10. North Atlantic Treaty Organization. AEP-66: NATO handbook for sampling and identification of biological, chemical and radiological agents. Brussels: NATO Information Service; 2009.
  11. World Health Organization (WHO). Laboratory biosafety manual. 3rd ed. Geneva: WHO; 2004.
  12. Kozlovac J, Schmitt B. Biosafety principles and practices for the veterinary diagnostic laboratory. Methods Mol Biol. 2015;1247:31-41.  https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-2004-4_3  PMID: 25399086 
  13. Whetstone C, Nelson BJ, Woods CR. Biosafety in research: oversight and basic principles. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2010;29(8):763-5.  https://doi.org/10.1097/INF.0b013e3181ea0e31  PMID: 20661104 
  14. Chosewood LC, Wilson DE, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), US National Institutes of Health. Biosafety in microbiological and biomedical laboratories. 5th ed. Washington DC: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, CDC; 2009.
  15. Sewell DL. Laboratory-associated infections and biosafety. Clin Microbiol Rev. 1995;8(3):389-405. PMID: 7553572 
  16. Blow JA, Dohm DJ, Negley DL, Mores CN. Virus inactivation by nucleic acid extraction reagents. J Virol Methods. 2004;119(2):195-8.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jviromet.2004.03.015  PMID: 15158603 
  17. Mitchell SW, McCormick JB. Physicochemical inactivation of Lassa, Ebola, and Marburg viruses and effect on clinical laboratory analyses. J Clin Microbiol. 1984;20(3):486-9. PMID: 6490832 
  18. Dauphin LA, Moser BD, Bowen MD. Evaluation of five commercial nucleic acid extraction kits for their ability to inactivate Bacillus anthracis spores and comparison of DNA yields from spores and spiked environmental samples. J Microbiol Methods. 2009;76(1):30-7.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mimet.2008.09.004  PMID: 18824041 
  19. Grolla A, Lucht A, Dick D, Strong JE, Feldmann H. Laboratory diagnosis of Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fever. Bull Soc Pathol Exot. 2005;98(3):205-9. PMID: 16267962 
  20. DIN EN 12469 - Biotechnology - Performance criteria for microbiological safety cabinets: Beuth; 2000.
  21. Wu SJ, Pal S, Ekanayake S, Greenwald D, Lara S, Raviprakash K, et al. A dry-format field-deployable quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction assay for diagnosis of dengue infections. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2008;79(4):505-10. PMID: 18840736 
  22. McAvin JC, Swanson KI, Chan AS, Quintana M, Coleman RE. Leishmania detection in sand flies using a field-deployable real-time analytic system. Mil Med. 2012;177(4):460-6.  https://doi.org/10.7205/MILMED-D-11-00206  PMID: 22594139 
  23. Durgavich J. Customs Clearance Issues Related to the Import of Goods for Public Health Programs. Arlington, VA: United States Agency for International Development; 2009.
  24. Baggi FM, Taybi A, Kurth A, Van Herp M, Di Caro A, Wölfel R, et al. Management of pregnant women infected with Ebola virus in a treatment centre in Guinea, June 2014. Euro Surveill. 2014;19(49):20983.  https://doi.org/10.2807/1560-7917.ES2014.19.49.20983  PMID: 25523968 
  25. Henao-Restrepo AM, Longini IM, Egger M, Dean NE, Edmunds WJ, Camacho A, et al. Efficacy and effectiveness of an rVSV-vectored vaccine expressing Ebola surface glycoprotein: interim results from the Guinea ring vaccination cluster-randomised trial. Lancet. 2015;386(9996):857-66.  https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(15)61117-5  PMID: 26248676 
  26. Moreau M, Spencer C, Gozalbes JG, Colebunders R, Lefevre A, Gryseels S, et al. Lactating mothers infected with Ebola virus: EBOV RT-PCR of blood only may be insufficient. Euro Surveill. 2015;20(3):21017.  https://doi.org/10.2807/1560-7917.ES2015.20.3.21017  PMID: 25635320 
  27. Carroll MW, Matthews DA, Hiscox JA, Elmore MJ, Pollakis G, Rambaut A, et al. Temporal and spatial analysis of the 2014-2015 Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa. Nature. 2015;524(7563):97-101.  https://doi.org/10.1038/nature14594  PMID: 26083749 

Data & Media loading...

Submit comment
Comment moderation successfully completed
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error